|Chapter Number||XIV. (Continued.) XV.|
|Chapter Title||WELCOME. RECREATION.|
|Newspaper Title||The Bendigo Independent (Vic. : 1891 - 1918)|
|Trove Title||The Devil's Own. An Australian Story|
THE DEVIL'S OWN.
AN AUSTRALIAN STORY
BY MRS. .ICHMOND HENTY. (ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.) CHAPTER XIV. (Continued).
Gifts followed gifts, pleasures followed pleasures, throughput the day as it passed in pure enjoyment, the rippling, laughter and merry voices of the children adding
to rather than spoiling the pleasure of the happy party. Seven o’clock tells the cuckoo clock (Uncle Ted’s present to the nursery), and the children are all assembled to listen to the quaint sounds, and look at the clock, though in their childish eagerness and surprise, unlike old Winifred Price of In- goldsby lore, as it tells them the day is ever for their revels, there is still a pro- mised romp with Uncle Ted to come off before they say good-night to all. The dinnertable has been stretched to its utmost limits, and is still insufficient for the many guests it is expected to hold, mostly bachelors from neighboring stations and a small sprinkling of women, “My wife always sends out into the highways and byways to hunt up all the spinsters and bachelors out of pity for their forlorn condition at Christmas time,” says Norman, (after the feast of good things has been discussed and they are assembled in the drawing-room, which is a veritable bower of roses ; large bowls of the choicest sort, filling every corner, leading enchantment to the scene in the dim dusk light), though I don’t think they look as if they are much to be pitied. I think its one word for them and two for herself. My wife, doesn’t; object to a swarm of admirers even now,” continues Connie’s husband. “ Just look at her; she has trapped Father Fennelly and is trying to make him turn Recha- bite; but it is no go, the priest won’t be caught with chaff." The priest is at this moment shaking his head firmly at a cup of tea Mrs. Fortescue is offering him. A jolly red faced, pleasant sort of fellow is Father Fennelley, the Roman Catholic priest of the district ; a good specimen of his class, full of anecdote, and always making his anecdotes and adventures more interest- ing by making himself the hero of them in the recital. He is full of fun and fond of his glass of whisky, like most of his cloth. Mrs. Fortescue, with many others, is aware of his weakness, and on his arrival she always makes a point of greeting him with “you’ll take a cup of tea, Father Fennelly,” and she invariably, gets the same polite answer, “Thawnk ye, bub I’ll take a little spurrits.” It is an old joke at Seringa and other stations where the priest is a welcome visitor, in fact it was said he had, with his winning ways, coaxed much more out of the Protestant community of that district than from out of his own flock. “ He is so remarkably plausible—you cannot refuse him. He won’t even give you the option, but he is a gopd fellow at heart and not bigotted,” said Norman, in a cheerful voice, to his friend, Donald Macansland, a neighboring squatter (a North of Ireland man), as they sat half in and half out of the French windows opening to the floor of the room and verandah. “ Weel, I don’t deny his good nature, but he has the confidence of the deil himsel. Did I never tell ye how he chased me out of my very own hoose last shearing ; 'twos as good as a play. 'Twas aboot a bet I had with old Sandy McClusky ye ken him? a rare skinflint and unco fond of the bawbees. Weel, we were talking of the priest one day and his cleur little dodges of getting subscriptions out of the stations, ‘ Hang the fellow,’ said McCIusky, ' I’ll bet ye five puns he’ll get five puns out of ye ursel this shearing. ' Done,’ said I, ' I’ll tak yere bet, Sandy; money’s scarce just now, I’ll be glad of an extra few pounds.’ ’So shall Sandy ; goot day.’ Well, of course, I kept a good look out as the time went on, and the shed was full; but one morning just in the very midst of shearing who should I see, from my office window, but Father Fennelly in the yard putting his horse in the stable. ‘Let’s make a bolt for it,' says Johnson, who was with me and knew all about the bet, ' for sure as fate he’ll get five pounds out of the both of us in a jiffy ; he has the devil's old talent for coaxing. Weel, we watched Father Fennelly into the house, and then didn’t we make a run for it—straight across the home paddock, through the horse paddock, as if the very deil was after us, down to the shed, try- ing to look cool and dignified as we nodded and spoke a few words to the shearers.” “Here’s Father Fennelly coming this way to collect money for his chapel; get your money ready, boys,” said Barnes, one of the shearers, to the men, “The devil he is,” said Johnson, “ then we’re off and no mistake,” and away we flew as if the deil was after us again, across the cultivation paddock to the wash down. " I thought the master was here” said Father Fennelly looking round the shed (Barnes told me all about it after). “ So he was a time agone," said William Smale. " Ain’t he up at the house, sir,” said Ezekiel Drew, a strict “ Methodee ” and hater of the priest "No, no; Mrs. McCausland, thought he might be here,” said Father Fennelly peevishlg. “ I fancied I saw him. He must have gone on to the wash,” and after getting some promises of subscrip- tion out of my men away he went as fast as his legs would carry him down to the wash down. We saw him coming. What was to be done—their was no es- cape—no , hiding place. Old Barney Maguire, you know the old duck shooter, a double-distilled neer-do-well, was up to the occasion, and proved a friend in need, though mony a time I’ve abused him like a pickpocket for his poaching pee- clevities. “Into the tombs” (floating casks in which washers stand under the spouts when holding or turning the sheep), wid, ye at onst,” said he, and away we scuttled across the dam into the water, ond without much ado were in the tubs, out of reach and out of sight of anyone, crouched down and feeling all feverish with the welting. " Morning, Barney," said the priest, "where’s the master !... He must be some- where hereabouts, for I saw him coming this way not many minutes ago, with mine own eyes.” “Did ye now ? Well, if that ain’t a curious coincidence; perhaps ’twas his sperritt. The divil a bit have I seen of his ghost, though, ’tis I misself that have been wanting the master this two hours an more. Isn't he up at the shed be- yant?" “ Never a bit,” said Father Fennelly, staring right and left in wonder ; sure I could have sworn I saw him coming through the cultivation paddock on his way here." " I must have been his sperrit surely,” said Martin Hale ; “ but if so be as you
should meet with the master, Mr. Fennelly, would yer kindly tell him I ha’ summat particular I wish to see him about.” “Certainiy, certainly. I am going back to the house: Good day, good day, boys,” said Fennelly, and he was off and back at the station almost before we had time to creep out of the tubs, cramped and shivering as you may suppose, not being experts at getting into them, glad to get home and change our wet clothes and drink the priest’s health in some hot whisky punch. Hang the fellow ! He has the impudence of the old boy himself, but we did him that time,. though; he found it all out soon after from one of the shearers or washers, I fancy, and now if he is told we are not to be found, he insists upon a scrutinising tour of thorough investigation, even to the tubs. At this moment Father Fennelly looks across the room and knows that the two men in the window are talking about him, but he only winks at them comically and continues his conversation with his hostess. A dance followed coffee, though ladies were at a premium. Sir. Roger de Coverley was proposed. Uncle Ted led off the dance with Mrs. Annelaye, to that pretty little dame’s immense satis- faction, “kicked up his heels” in the terpsichorean style, to quote his, own ex- pression ; Herbert Annelaye dancing wiih Mrs. Fortescue. “ Bless my soul, Connie, I feel like Lady Arabella Whilamina Skeggs in that book the Vicar of Wakefield,” said Uncle Ted, falling back on the sofa and mopping his rosy face furiously to the amusement of all about him. “ How is that, uncle,” said Connie in- nocently. “ My dear, have you never read the Vicar of Wakefield: bless me, how your education must have been neglected; it is in that scene——I cannot repeat her ladyship’s words. Oh no ! they might shock you, so you must be patient till you read the book, then you can think of me—don’t you be shocked ?” Punch, from an old English punch bowl, Norman Fortescue declared, had been used in the old happy times of long long ago, and when he rejoiced in long, tailed robes, he said, for his christening, went round to the health of all absent ones, “ Auld Lang Syne" with the old Scotch fashion of crossed hands, wound up the Christmas fete, everyone wishing each other good night before the small hours of the morning drew in. The men de- termined upon escorting the Annelaye’s, to limit habitation in the “ Glen-” for fear of bushrangers, and on arriving at the small domicile, Herbert Annelaye insisted on them all going in and having a chat and a smoke, which lasted till the small hours had well set in. “ Good-night and God bless you, my son; may the coming year be a bright and successful one for you all; but take heart, don’t work too hard. You will be well off in the time to come. I shan’t live much longer, and you’ll have most of it,” said Uncle Ted, shaking, his favorite nephew’s hand as he scuffled away into his room quietly. Alas for poor Norman ! in the time to come. Alas ! that there should be such curses in the air as human wolves in sheep’s clothing; people of his own kin who would mar his very life and deprive him of his very inheritance, destroying all his old honest faith in mankind. “ In the time to come,” said old Nor- man, with a sigh. “ I hope that is far off,” he said to himself. CHAPTER XV. RECREATION. “Jack, take the black mare, stand clear of her heels, She’s not over safe between rails, Though once your light weight in the saddle she feels, We shan't take the wind from your sails. Now, Harry, I think you can catch little Jim, While I saddle old “Bobbie Burns,” I’m thoroughly up to the old beggar's whim, Of running too close at the turns.” ERNEST HENTY. “Up, rouse ye men, ye merry merry men,” sang Herbert Annelaye in his rich clear voice, as he ascended the rising ground towards his friend’s house, feeling stonger and better than he had felt for many a long day, and as he stood for a moment on the brow of the hill and looked back on the valley beneath him, he thanked God that he had been spared to enjoy such a scene as that. It was quite early; the whole land- scape tinted with the rosy cheeks of the morning sun, to the tips of the forest trees, where some black cockatoos were screeching their loud good mornings to each other on the topmost branches, a picturesque soft blue grey mist was shrouding the whole valley, reminding him of some of old picture of a quiet scene in the Highlands he had seen. Every, blade and leaf is sparkling with tinkling dew drops that glitter like diamonds in the sun; telling of a heavy due. Early as it is the whole atmos- phere teems with life—a hum of insects— the rich warbling of the peep of day boys—mix with the different notes of parrots and cockatoos, as they fly over- head and about, animating the picture with the rainbow coloring of their brilliant plumage, whilst the slow sober tingle of bullock bells falls on the ear, telling of the travellers who, with their drays, have camped by the side of the road winding along the valley near the creek, the men busy preparing their morning meal by a blazing camp fire of logs, from which a thin column of blue smoke rises, adding picturesqueness to the landscape. Herbert Annelaye is an artist at heart, and he wishes he could only paint the whole scene then and there as it rises be- fore him, even to his young wife, he gladly sees waving her hand to him as she stands under the wood-bined porch like some exquisite portrait framed in flowers. “Cooee,” shouts some one from the house, and Herbert kissing his hand to his true love, hurries on up the bill to the house, where all the world is astir, men mounting their horses, groups chat- ting together, whilst at the barracks and the house people are in and out " hurry- ing up ” for breakfast or departure. “Good morning; here you are, Anne laye. There’s your nag, just at the gate. There’s Connie’s mare, Brown Bess; she’s got too fat lately, the run will do her good. There’s breakfast inside, come in.” “ Good morning; I have had breakfast thank you," said Annelaye. “Nonsense; I know what that was, a square inch of toast with an egg, per- haps, at the most. Come along. Here Connie—Connie.” “Here I am,” said Mrs. Fortescue, appearing on the verandah, and looking as fresh as the dawn. “ Here’s Annelaye, obstreperous ; won't eat his breakfast. Connie, he is here to have breakfast mind ; strict orders. Make him eat," says her husband. " Come in, Herbert; I have something tempting this morning for breakfast,” said Mrs. Fortescue, leading the way into’ the long dining room, where the scene
was only to be compared to a hunt breakfast at some sporting rough and ready country squire’s. “Come and sit here—no; I won’t have you near me. You will talk, and I want you to eat. You have just ten minutes if you go with Norman—you take coffee, I know. You have not be- come quite a bushmen yet; now you are in my charge, and you are to make a good breakfast. I do love a muster, everyone looks so fresh and bright and happy, at least in the morning ; in the evening it is a different matter alto- gether. They all come, home so tired, poor things, and so dusty.” “ So they do in the old country after a day’s fox hunting; jolly sport, but tir- ing, and as to dust, I have often re- turned unrecognisable positively up to my nose in mud,” said Mr. Annelaye Herbert Annelaye did make a good breakfast to please his fair hostess, and was struggling through a very dainty pyramid of game pie when he heard a voice behind him. “ I say, Beamish, this is jolly, down- right jolly, isn’t it, and no mistake; done well too, you know. I have always had an idea that bush people were bar- barians ; people you know that live from hand to mouth in a boorish way, content with a tin pot and a tin plate for their meals, and that sort of thing. What a lot of rubbish people write about things and places they know nothing about.” “ Yes, and the public is gulled and deceived with such cant,” said another voice. Annelaye turned to see who the speakers were, but he only saw strangers. Two men standing together at the side- board, evidently taking in the whole scene. One was young, almost a boy, and delicate looking; the other older and with a sober and thoughtful expression, both attired in light grey suits of thin material, and both looked spick and span, even to their French kid boots, and not obviously about to join in the little skirmish. They remained in the room only a second or so, then apparently satisfied with their survey of the breakfast room and its guests, they left together, Herbert Annelaye meeting them a few minutes after when they were having a tour of investigation amongst the horses and horsemen that lined the fence and filled the yard. “Now you may go, Sir Herbert, I will take good care of Vera. We are to have such a delightful picnic up at the rocks. If you can get away, do find us out. We will entertain you to a veritable bush tiffen; don’t forget, between one and two. Norman knows the shortest cut out from where you will be at that time.” “ Are you going by yourselves? Are you not afraid of some stray cattle tak- ing you by surprise and scampering over your fresco lunch!” said Annelaye. “No, we have a splendid escort in prospect. Imagine the son of a duke ! yes, a duke!” “By-the-by, begging your pardon for interrupting, who are those two men in grey? strangers to me.” said Anne laye. “Grey—grey; oh! didn’t Norman tell you the youngest is Lord Vereker, son of the Duke of—of ——" “Grantham,” said Annelaye. "Yes. Did you know them ?” said Mrs. Fortescue. “ The poor young fellow is con- sumptive. I fancy at any rate he is to remain in a warm climate till the Eng- lish winter is over. The other is his friend or tutor, I forget which. Mr. Beamish, I feel like Atlas, the world upon my shoulder, having to entertain a a duke’s son, though already I have lost half my dread, for the young fellow is not nearly so formidable as I thought duke’s sons were.” “ Never be afraid of entertaining well bred people. They are not so difficult to manage as your shoddy aristocracy. Let me see—Rudolph Vereker.” “ Is his name Rudolph ? What a beautiful name? It reminds me of some old touching German legend,” said Mrs. Fortescue. “Rudolph Vereker must be about twenty-one or twenty-two—not more— and the duke and duchess about the nicest people in the peerage,” said Anne- Iaye with a sigh. “Then you know them. I am so glad,” said his listener, in a joyous tone of surprise. “ Yes,” said Annelaye slowly; but it was years ago. They would never re- member me ; I am sure Rudolph Vereker would not.” “ I am sure he will—he must,” said Mrs. Fortescue. “ He looks clever; he must have a good memory with such an intellectual face. I shall introduce you at our tiffen—there is no time now. Norman is ready to start.” A few minutes later and the whole cavalcade are away and far out of sight, and a few hours later Mr. Fortescue's large buggy, followed by a smaller one, is being slowly driven up a steep grassy hill to the highest point of observation, “ the Rocks,” where they can see a good portion of the day’s proceedings. Mrs. Fortescue, with her usually kind nature, has insisted on Lord Vereeker driving Vera and taking the groom with them in the large buggy, or mail phaeton as it really is, she herself choosing Mr. Beamish for her escort in the smaller conveyance. “ Are none of the children coming ?” said Vera, as she comes into the hall and sees Ernie with a serious face and solemn eyes standing near the ponies. “ I am always so nervous about snakes at 'the Rocks,' ” said Connie. “ Oh, let Ernie and Dicky come—do,” said Vera. “ I will take care of them.” Connie hesitated for a moment. “ He that hesitates is lost,” said Ernie, who is watching his mother. “Yes, but it doesn’t say anything about she in the case.” “There, jump in, both of you,” said Vera; “ John will not want the whole seat—it is such a wide one,” and to the boys delight their mother never said no. Vera has never seen a muster before, and looks awfully terror-stricken when Lord Vereker pulls up under a shady clump of pine trees, and a small herd of cattle, with formidable horns, comes scampering up close to the carriage, nothing daunted to have a good look at the visitors. “These are perfectly quiet, Vera,” says Connie, from her buggy; “they are the home cattle, as quiet as sheep.” “One might just as well be tossed to death as die of fright,” says Mr. Beam- ish. “Now just watch them Aunt Vera, and please hold the reins tight, sir, ” (to Lord Yereeker), and Ernie, sounding a policeman’s rattle, at full speed, the skegging noise of which the cattle flying in all directions, tails in the air, into the vast depths of the forest not far away, to the relief of more than one of the spectators. “ Ernie ? What a boy you are. Where did you get that dreadfully noisy thing ?” “Bravo ! ” said Lord Vereker. “ What a simple idea, and how it completely put
to the rout those ferocious looking animals. Let me assist you, Miss Annelaye; it is a very high jump.” They have chosen a beautiful site, amongst several high bouldors, in a veri- table picnic spot as if made for the occasion, and overlooking the whole valley. John, the old groom, is trying to ex- plain all the manoeuvres discernible, to Ernie and Dicky, who forthwith retails the information to the company, who, with field glasses, are all attention, though as the wooded part of the pano- rama partially shuts out the view, they find it rather difficult to understand sundry movements of the horsemen in the valley, and to make it more intelligible to the reader, I will explain what the Seringa master was. About one of the pleasantest and most exciting events in the bush life of a genuine squatter is that of a muster. It has all the excite- ment of a soldier going to the wars, but without the misgivings, the fear of defeat and the dread of death, for, however valiant a soldier may be, he cannot put aside the thought that death must stare him in the face, and if he is ready, well and good ; if he is not—well—I am not going to inflict a homily on my readers —so for the muster at Seringa, where all arrangements had been made. The neighbors, with their stockmen, had all arrived, and the night had been passed with pleasant conversation, jests, yarns, songs, etc., and then all had turned in for the night, but only for a time, and to note soon after at early morn the soul stirring sounds of the magpies and the side-splitting merriment of the laughing jackasses. The boys had been off to the paddocks whilst breakfast was being prepared, after which pipes had been lighted, stock- whips, examined, fresh lashes put on, for there is great art in handling an Aus- tralian stockwhip. The handle is very short and the whip very long, ranging to thirteen feet in length, which, when skilfully cracked, sounds like the report of a gun. Horses have been saddled, their riders have, as usual, waited for in- structions. Breaking up into the appointed parties, each led by a stockman, thoroughly ac- quainted with the run and the different cattle camps. It was Norman Fortescue’s intention only to muster one side of the “ run ” at a time. The outlying bound- aries of the run were to be reached, and then at the sound of the stockwhips resounding through forest, over hill and plain, the cattle would madly rush to their different camps; thence the stock- man would drive them, to she central and head camp, where towards noon some two thousand head or more would gather. After an hour’s rest to mind, the cattle and enjoy a smoke, orders would be given to start the herd for home. The cattle would be loth to leave their camp, and it would take much galloping after refractory beasts before the herd would be induced to leave its favorite rendez- vous. At last a few cattle would lead off, and soon the whole herd follow; stockmen ahead and stockmen in flank would guide the lowing kine in the right direction, others bringing up the rear to urge on the calves and other younger cattle. Clouds of dust generally rose up as the mass of heavily breathing animals stretched out in a long line, as they head for the stockyard. Sometimes a cow with her young calf would try and break away; a young bull would dash from the mob, while, now and then old warriors would try and baffle their pursuers by a side swerve, only to be headed back by the skill and dexterity of the stockmen. Many an exciting chase does a muster entail. “ Here they come, whole troops on ’em, just along the valley yonder, Master Dick. Ye can see the dust a-flying. My eyed! there is one fellow off; sarve him right. It is the old dunderheaded fool as can’t ride a bit, I told him this morning he ought to be at home with his mother, for all he knew about horse- back," said old John. “Who is he, John? " said Ernie. “Never saw him afore, man. I think he must have come over from the ranges. It’ll do him good—he’s on again-—and I see the master’s a-riding up to him, though he don’t want no pity; not he,” said the old groom in contemptuous tones, “I don’t think we need wait for them,” said Mrs. Fortescue, as she and her boys laid out the lunch on a mossy bank under some trees near, the groom busy drawing corks, and laying down the carriage cushions for seats. “There’s a carriage coming up the hill, Connie,” said Mrs. Annelaye, who, withLord Vereker, had been looking on at the muster. “I wonder who it is. They will just be in time for lunch,’’ said Mrs. Fortescue, still busy with her arrange- ments, when the vehicle came in sight, but empty, the occupants following soon after. “ We have been to the house, and they told us you were here, so we wore not going to be done out of a sight of your bonnie self, Mrs. Fortescue, so we fol- lowed you up here, a stiffish hill for the horses, but we all walked up. Ah ! I see my party stole a march upon me, though you couldn’t have been here long,” said Mr. Wilson, throwing the reins to his groom as he dismounted and joined the party. “ So glad you are in time,” said Mrs. Fortescue, introducing the visitors. “ We are not going to wait for anyone. I know they object to show up dusty, as they generally are before this." “ I brought you six emu eggs and a skin;” said Mr. Wilson to Mrs. Anne- laye, “towards your collection you are going to take home. I got the eggs in the sand hills yesterday—ten of them— and as I was going farther I left them in one of the shepherd’s huts till my return— hang it—when I came back if the fellow hadn’t eaten half of them." “ He evidently thought, like Mark Twain, that the animal had laid his eggs on the table ready for your shepherd’s breakfast,” said Mr. Beamish. “ What a very greedy shepherd,” said Mrs Fortescue. “ Now I quite believe in Dr. Barton’s story he told us last week. He said he had been sent for to some station where a shepherds was dying in agony, as they thought, from having eaten something indigestible or poisonous. It puzzled the doctor which, and the man was too ill to speak or give an account of him- self. However, when he could speak, he muttered savagely that he hadn’t taken ‘ nuthin’ to hurt him. In fact he hadn’t eaten anything except ten emu eggs, which confession relieved the little doctors mind at once.” (TO BE CONTINUED.)